MIDWAY : A perennial question

My lessons on advanced French were over, and I briefly taught it in a school in Kathmandu. While French was what I was cracked up to teach basically, the interaction with the students didn’t always, like in any classroom in the world, dwell on a sole topic or subject, and in my case, on French.

Extracurricular interactions sometimes prompt teachers and students alike to wonder and ponder on less obvious matters concerning one and all, often giving birth to million-dollar questions. Once, we were talking about world religions in general and a question, to which there is probably no answer, came like a bolt from the blue:

Sir, which is the best religion in the world? I wished I could ignore this unworkable question point-blank and revert swiftly to French. But then, teachers have a typical dilemma: one ‘i-don’t-know’ is enough to give an indelible ‘sir-knows-nothing’ impression to the students. Acceptably, it’s a truism to mention that in the eyes of students, teachers are nearly a know-it-all bunch of brains.

Yet I didn’t venture into answering, as I simply didn’t have a convincing answer. Neither do I have it now. Silence accompanied by a humiliated smile was my answer. I simply loathed getting away with a clichéd answer like ‘humanity is the best religion.’ Such responses hardly please promising students. Neither do the teachers derive any bona fide satisfaction.

Over the years, I have asked as well as answered umpteen questions on French — doubtlessly a tough language. Besides, correct answers are readily available: in dictionaries, grammar books, Internet or even directly from my professors in France. Similarly, I have asked umpteen questions on religion but where to find an all-satisfying answer to ‘which is the best religion in the world: on dictionaries of theology, in religious writings and discourses, Internet, from gurus, or each of us in our own quest?

Every religion has almost the same message and has the same spiritual value. The trick is to follow them in earnest, while at the same time respect the classical message of tolerance that, in an attempt to enhance universal peace and brotherhood, all religions invariably preach and prescribe.